by James Curtis. Scarecrow Press.
Hardback. 245 pages. £18.75
As most of Scarecrow Press books tend to have extortionate price
tags, it is not often that I can afford to indulge. However, seeing James Whale's gold embossed name standing out in
the Cinema Section of the bookstore I decided that this was an essential purchase.
This first entry to Scarecrow Press' "Scarecrow
Filmmakers Series" is to the best of my knowledge the first book length
study of the famous director. James Curtis' allegiance to Whale's genius runs deep and he
quite rightly maintains that his best works were his horror films, but he is keen to point
out that the director's work outside of the genre should not be dismissed.
Whale had initially moved to Hollywood carrying with him a reputation for war movies in
light of his success with JOURNEY'S END and his contribution to Howard
Hughes' HELL'S ANGELS. Using this as a starting block, Whale attempted to
prove himself worthy in other areas and his subsequent work for Universal showed the world
that he was a director of considerable talent, displaying a penchant for plot development,
camera placement, and above all his choice of actors for principal roles.
Whale's quartet of horror films for the
studio, Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The
Invisible Man (1933) and The Bride of
Frankenstein (1935), found great success partly due to the casting of British actors
with whom he had worked with in Britain during the Twenties. After 1935, Whale seemed to
abstain from the horror genre while attempting to move on to bigger and more spectacular
Curtis' study also includes detailed
accounts of Whale's formative years including his work as an actor and director in
stageplays right up until his retirement in 1941 and his death clouded under mysterious
circumstances in May, 1957. Each stage of the director's life is accompanied with superb
photographs that nicely complement the absorbing text.
Ask any horror film fan their top ten favourites and you'll certainly find at least one James Whale film somewhere in the list. Curtis'
book has filled a gap in documenting a key figure of cinema's history, and although the
cover price is a little on the high side, this book is invaluable.
Available in the US click